What Is Self-Esteem?

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By Kendra Cherry. Psychology Expert

Kendra Cherry is an author and educator with over a decade experience helping students make sense of psychology. She is the author of the Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition) and she has published thousands of articles on diverse topics in psychology including personality, social behavior, child therapy, research methods, and much more.

Question: What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem levels at the extreme high and low ends of the spectrum can be damaging, so the ideal is to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. A realistic yet positive view of the self is often considered the ideal.

But what exactly is self-esteem? Where does it come from and what influence does it really have on our lives?

In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person's overall sense of self-worth or personal value. Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait. which means that it tends to be stable and enduring.

Self-esteem can involve a variety of beliefs about the self, such as the appraisal of one's own appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.

Components of Self-Esteem

According to one definition (Braden, 1969), there are three key components of self-esteem:

  1. Self-esteem is an essential human need that is vital

    for survival and normal, healthy development.

  2. Self-esteem arises automatically from within based upon a person's beliefs and consciousness.
  3. Self-esteem occurs in conjunction with a person's thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and actions.

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Self-Esteem Theories

The need for self-esteem plays an important role in psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. which depicts self-esteem as one of the basic human motivations. Maslow suggested that people need both esteem from other people as well as inner self-respect. Both of these needs must be fulfilled in order for an individual to grow as a person and achieve self-actualization .

It is important to note that self-esteem is a concept distinct from self-efficacy. which involves the belief in future actions, performance, or abilities.

Factors That Can Influence Self-Esteem

As you might imagine, there are a number of different factors that can influence self-esteem. Genetic factors that help shape overall personality can play a role, but it is often our experiences that form the basis for overall self-esteem. Those who consistently receive overly critical or negative assessments from caregivers, family members, and friends, for example, will likely experience problems with low self-esteem.

Self-Esteem Synonyms:

  • Self-worth
  • Self-respect
  • Self-value

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Source: psychology.about.com

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